A Restaurant VIP Club can be one of the most dynamic and powerful means to grow your business, and it is one of the strategies that is least adopted by restauranteurs – or swiftly and prematurely dropped right after launch. There are very few marketing strategies that are more productive and effective than setting up and heavily promoting a VIP Club through your email marketing newsletter. Here are the top 5 tips to help graduate your restaurant to the elite level.

Get Your Staff Motivated

Nothing kills a VIP Club more than apathetic wait staff who couldn’t care less: “Club, schlub, where’s my tip?” In order to get a thorough commitment from your personnel you have to incentivize them with a carrot and stick approach. The carrot is that for every one of their guests who signs up for the VIP Club upon their tableside recommendation they will receive a cash reward, and at the end of every month the server with the most signups wins a significant cash prize. The stick is that your email newsletters state that if your server does not ask you if you’ve joined the VIP Club, you’ll get a free appetizer or dessert, so you can fine or otherwise penalize your errant staffers.

Make It a True VIP Experience

Everything about your VIP Club should ooze patrician class and exclusivity. If you have the space and layout for it, why not set up a separate and very high-class VIP section complete with privacy screens to separate them from the Non-VIP plebeians? Try gold plated cutlery; fine crystal glasses; 100% cotton linens; great art on the walls; and cushy, more comfortable chairs. Show it off with vivid imagery in your email newsletter and truly dazzle and allure your patrons.

Let the VIPs Choose Their Own Table

Allowing the reserving VIPs to actually choose their favorite table via a link to your website from your email newsletter can be a masterful perk. Ask your webmaster to create a Javascript that ties into your reservation database so that your webpage can show real time table availability.

A VIP Event Each & Every Month

There is no month that should go by without a special VIP event. Of course Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas are the obvious ones, but what about the other eight months? With a little imagination you can come up with completely appropriate holiday-themed events that fit your restaurant perfectly, which you can promote through your email newsletter. Your Mexican restaurant celebrates Cinco De Mayo, but what are you doing on the real Fiesta Patria on September 16? Why is your Italian restaurant not holding a special dinner event for Republic Day on June 2, or your French restaurant not waving the tricolor on Bastille Day on July 14? Thai restaurants are especially blessed in this regard, as they can choose to celebrate Songkran in April; Wan Phuetcha Mongkhon in May; Queen Sirikit’s Birthday in August; King Chulalongkorn’s passing in October…

Emulate the Best

One of the most advanced and successful VIP Clubs is operated by Lawry’s Restaurants and it is a joy to behold (and emulate). Lawry’s VIPs accumulate VIP Points that they can redeem for $25 VIP Rewards Certificates good at any of their restaurants. But that’s not all… VIPs receive a $25 Welcome Certificate; VIP Points for every dollar spent; Double VIP Points during early bird times and on Mondays; extra Birthday and Anniversary VIP Points; and invitations to private wine dinners and a variety of other special events. Lawry’s even provides a souvenir Lawry’s Seasoned Pepper personalized with the VIP’s name and mailed out once they use their Anniversary Certificate. If you think that’s way too much to offer in your email campaign, consider that Lawry’s A La Cart newsletter heavily promotes their VIP program, which is overwhelmingly successful and responsible for a significant percentage of their overall traffic.

Making a categorical commitment to email marketing, your VIP Club will significantly boost your visibility and relevance with your subscribers. Treat your VIPs right and they’ll fill those otherwise empty seats night after night.